By Ernesto Cooke – The Southern Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines leaps in 2021 faced with more uncertainties.
COVID cases continue to rise, and the Island’s La Soufriere Volcano which last erupted in 1979, is rumbling back to life.
COVID -19 Cases Continue To Rise In St Vincent
As of December 31st 2020 St Vincent recorded (121) cases of COVID-19. Ninety-eight (98) have recovered and twenty-three (23) are active.
The country confirmed on Thursday six cases related to what they describe as local spread.
The country’s Health officials have implemented intensive contact tracing to identify in excess of one hundred and twenty-five (125) contacts of these six positive cases.
Aggressive testing and quarantining by the local COVID-19 Task force are ongoing and is aimed at containment of the local spread of COVID- 19 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
On Thursday 31st December 2020 state authorities instituted a ban on amplified music in public.
A bulletin from the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force said that the measure is to ensure there are no mass gatherings at this time of ongoing local spread of COV1D-19 on the island.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is among fourteen nations that have recorded zero deaths from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
La Soufriere Rumbles To Life On St Vincent
St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) a multi island state with a population of 110, 000 people located 100 miles west of Barbados is currently on Orange Alert.
The alert was issued by SVG authorities as the La Soufriere volcano located on the Northern tip of mainland St Vincent began showing signs of life, the last eruption took place in 1979.
Officials from the National Emergency Management Organization, NEMO , tasked with handling disaster on the Caribbean island said on Monday 28th December that La Soufriere is now in an effusive state.
An eruption dominated by the outpouring of lava onto the ground is often referred to as an effusive eruption
The UWI Seismic Research Unit located in Trinidad and which monitors activities at La Soufriere told the island’s Prime Minister, Dr. The Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves and the media that activity has been taking place at the volcano since November 2020, however, they were normal seismic activity of a nature akin to La Soufriere.
On 27th December, 2020 a hot spot was seen on one of NASA’s Satellite. That hotspot according to the image taken by the satellite was in the middle of the crater and prompted alerts.
Following investigations, the officials indicated that there are emissions of magma oozing from a new dome which was growing next to the existing one located on the northwestern side of La Soufriere.
An Aerial reconnaissance conducted on Thursday 31st December, 2020 by a team from UWI Seismic Unit, showed that effusive eruptions continues and the new dome is expanding.
The three man team is headed by Geologist Prof. Richard Robertson, Instrumentation Engineer Lloyd Lynch and Engineering Technician Ian lumen.
The Prime Minister of St Vincent Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that no evacuation order has been given by his government as of January 1, 2021.
Roughly 20,000 citizens would be in the path for immediate evacuation. These citizens are located in the extreme north of the island.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that shelters in the central belt and south of the country, along with hotels, will be used to house persons.
In the event of evacuations all the necessary COVID-19 protocols will be adhered to.
OECS Countries Ready To Help
Increased activity prompted OECS leaders to convene an emergency session on Thursday 31st December, 2020.
Following that meeting several pledges of support for St. Vincent were forthcoming from islands within the grouping.
The Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell pledged Grenada’s willingness, in collaboration with St. George’s University, to make available up to 2,000 beds on the campus, should an eruption of the volcano create the need for Vincentians to evacuate the island.
The Prime Minister has also indicated that Grenada will offer any other support that it can, within its limited means.
Trinidad And Tobago Evacuation Assistance
Should the La Soufriere volcano erupt, the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard has offered to help with evacuation of persons in the north of St Vincent.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves speaking on state radio Wednesday 30th December 2020, told the nation he was informed by the local Coast Guard Commander of the offering from Trinidad.
“ Commander Brenton Cain told me that the head of Trinidad Coast Guard volunteered to support evacuation efforts if it becomes necessary”.
The South American nation of Venezuela has also indicated assistance would be forth coming should the need arise.
The People’s Fate
For now the citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines await an uncertain future as it relates to the La Soufriere volcano and the rise in COVID-19 cases; with each passing day, hoping, waiting and anticipating an end to this surreal experience only they know and can describe.
However, In the midst of dark shadows of a perplexing future, the island’s anthem bellows loud, “What ere the future brings our faith will see us through”.